Zion National Park Runcation – Part 2

Last week we were lucky enough to be in Zion National Park for two days! (Read about our first day of adventures here.) Our first day included a 20 mile run that was great, but took up a large portion of the day. Elevation, heat, and lots of photo-taking were all contributors to our slowness. I have absolutely no regrets about our run, however, it didn’t really allow us time to explore any of the other smaller trails or more “tourist-y” spots in the park.

Since we only had one more day, we decided to divide and conquer in the morning, and meet up later for other hiking. Admittedly, I may have “broken the boy” with that 20 mile run, so ever the man of moderation, Adam opted for a more relaxed second day. He decided to explore the Riverside Walk, Weeping Rock, and Hidden Canyon while I ran on the West Rim Trail for a rough total of 12 miles. We chose a time to meet back at the Visitor Center, and off I went on my solo run!

The morning light in the canyon was magical, but also incredibly hard to capture.

The West Rim Trail begins at the Grottos Trailhead, and is the way up to Angel’s Landing. I didn’t go up to Angel’s Landing because of my time constraint, and because we already got a great view of the canyon from Observation Point the day before. However, because of the popularity of Angel’s Landing, the trail was busier than I would have expected at 8:20am. I wasn’t able to run much of it because of the inherent steepness, but I pushed hard when I could. I got some remarks of, “You go girl!” and “Get after it!” Always nice to have encouragement on the way! This section of the trail is basically two main sections of switchbacks that go up, and up, and UP.

After less than 40 minutes, I was at Scout Lookout where the Angel’s Landing trail continues on a very narrow fin of rock and the West Rim Trail splits off in the opposite direction. One group inadvertently followed me (they turned around after asking how to get to Angel’s Landing), but beyond that, no one was headed the my way. Later I encountered a few backpackers on the way back out, and a trio of trailrunners (possibly doing the full Zion Traverse?) I was looking forward to recapturing some of the solitude we had experienced the day before. Just me and nature, you know?

At this point, the trail still wasn’t terribly runnable, but I enjoyed the super blue sky and early morning light on the unique rock formations.

No cairns today, but helpful signage instead!

Here the trail became slightly more runnable in sections as I went back down into a canyon. It also was roughly paved, not unlike the Observation Point trail from the day before. I looked this up later and it turns out that the trails are “paved” to prevent erosion. Kudos to those folks for the effort! (More information on how this was done can be found in this FAQ.) The views at this point were fantastic. It was very quiet, but the beauty of the canyon walls and rock formations was simply stunning.

 

This was probably my favorite moment and view of the day. ❤

 

The weather was sunny and in the 70s, yet look what I found in the shade…snow! And, sadly, no human targets for snowballs in the immediate vicinity (it does look odd to throw one at your own face, I suppose.)

Did not think I’d find snow in the desert.

After a few switchbacks in the shadow of the canyon, I realized that I was headed up onto the very beautiful canyon wall I had noted earlier. In all honesty, the trail really wasn’t too narrow, but with a sheer dropoff on one side, it FELT narrow. (Yes, I do feel a bit wobbly with heights.) I may have started cheering myself on at this point: “You can do this. Just focus on the trail, and don’t look down. Just look at the trail.

Totally confident. Yup.

After a few more of these hair-raising switchbacks, I finally made it to the flatter, runnable part! I was very excited about this, and was bummed that I would have to turn around soon. As the time ticked down to my self-chosen turnaround spot, I came upon another fantastic view. There was nobody here but me and the view. LOVE IT.

This picture does NOT do it justice, of course!

After a snack and reapplication of sunscreen, I got to enjoy running down all of those inclines I worked so hard getting up. I still stopped now and then to snap a photo of some of the lovely flora amongst all the rock.

I absolutely loved all the desert phlox I saw on the trails!

Once past Angel’s Landing, it was an absolute zoo of people. I already missed the solitude I found earlier on the trail! I hustled to the shuttle, and got swept up in the wave of tourist-y humanity heading back to the Visitor Center.

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It appears the GPS got a little confused on the trail, it’s still fun to see my running route!

I met Adam in the Visitor Center parking lot, and we shared lunch and quick synopses of our adventures. Now that we had planned on this time to hike together, what should we do?? The Narrows weren’t an option as it was closed, so we settled on starting with the Canyon Overlook Trail. It was a short trail outside of the main canyon, but gave some great views with fewer crowds. It’s just east of the mile-long tunnel, and basically above the Great Arch. It was an interesting little trail, and one I’d definitely recommend.

Another tenacious tree, living on the edge of an amazing view!

After that, we learned from a ranger that you can hike off-trail, if you’re comfortable with it. It was an interesting option for us as there weren’t any more established trails nearby. Adam became intrigued by an area down a ravine from the parking lot. I wasn’t too keen on the steepness of this non-trail, and it didn’t look that interesting to me, so I opted to stay in the car while he took 10 minutes to explore. After a few minutes he was back. “You’ve got to see this.” I thought he was joking, but he showed me photos of a little slot canyon that piqued my curiosity. So down we went! (I later learned this place is called Pine Creek Slot Canyon.)

Right before I decided my legs weren’t long enough and I had to wade in…

There were all sorts of interesting nooks and crannies that were fun to photograph (while ignoring the traffic noise from directly above, lol.) We didn’t get too far because after wading through the first pool, we came to an area where it became clear you’d need climbing gear to go further due to the belay points in the rock. (Okay, I had to wade through the first pool, but Adam’s long legs served him well and he stayed dry.)

Photography in action!

After this, our day was complete, and we drove back to Kanab full of sunshine and gratitude for our adventures.

Our second and final day in Zion National Park was FANTASTIC. Overall, we had an absolutely wonderful runcation, and this just reminded me how much I enjoy the unique beauty of the national parks in southern Utah. There’s so much more I want to explore there! It is definitely on our to-do list for the future. So, if you have the opportunity, go there and run! (Or hike, whatever is your jam.) Enjoy it!

Zion National Park Runcation – Part 1

I realize Seattle is notorious for rain, but it’s been far rainier than normal this year. Even the born-and-raised Seattleites were being affected by the gloom. From October to March, we only had three sunny days. Three. To say that Adam and I were desperate for some sun and warmth is a gross understatement. Our remedy? A quick trip to Zion National Park!

We’d never been there before, but have previously enjoyed three other National Parks in Utah: Arches, Capitol Reef, and Bryce. We decided to make a runcation out of it. Okay, to be fair, decided and Adam went along with it. 😉  My coach had recently run on the trails there, and gave us some great suggestions of routes to enjoy some miles and scenery.

A sneak peek of the scenery!

On our first day, we got up very early, and drove from Kanab to the East Rim Trailhead. It was a perfectly clear morning – a little chilly in the shadows of the canyons, but the sun was rapidly rising to warm us up. Since we live at about 400 feet above sea level in Seattle, we felt the altitude (5,700 feet) as soon as we started running. Altitude training for the win!

The first bit of the trail was partially in the woods, and it was wonderfully quiet. For the next few hours, we only saw a handful of backpackers and no one else but a single mule deer, a few hummingbirds, and a multitude of lizards. Perfect solitude. After nearly an hour, we came to a small waterfall that dropped into a canyon. It was the first canyon view of many on this trail.

At this point, the trail leveled out and we were in what looked like a meadow, of a sort. (There was even a bit of actual grass!) Very runnable and pleasant. We took a short detour (okay, a wrong turn) and found a wildlife trail camera. I’m sure we’re not the only dopes that show up on their camera, but we made sure to wave at the rangers!

Waving to the rangers!

I checked the map, and realized we took the wrong trail. Back we went, and no harm done (or extreme extra mileage). We were up on the rim of the canyons, and after about two hours of running the trail began to go steeply downhill. More rocks, and less vegetation, which also meant a bit more sunshine.

Adam for scale in the awesome scenery.

After about three hours, we came to a place where the trail seemed to disappear and we had to hunt for cairns to find our way. Sort of like a scavenger hunt for the trail.

You see the trail, right?

At this point the stillness was broken with the sounds of people, and we came to a trail intersection. While enjoying a brief snack in the shade, I heard a loud drone sound. I looked up to see a hummingbird not two feet from my face, also enjoying a snack of his own. (From an Indian Paintbrush flower and not a Glutino cookie, though.)  😉

At this intersection, the East Rim Trail continues down into the main Zion Canyon that everyone knows and visits. However, we chose to join the tourists and took the other trail, which goes up to Observation Point. There is about a mile of switchbacks up to Observation Point, and it was noteworthy because it was sort of paved. Judging by some of the signatures in the broken concrete, it was “paved” with cement around 1975. It was an interesting juxtaposition to have a paved trail and a cairn-marked trail less than a mile apart. Once you get up those paved switchbacks, there’s nearly a mile of flat before you get to the main viewpoint.

Observation Point is north end of the canyon and, as the name suggests, gives an absolutely stunning view of the canyon.

Wow. Just…wow.

After enjoying the view, taking a lot of photos, and having a snack, it was time to head back down.

Action shot with a view!

Due to beautiful views, the altitude, and the heat, our run ended up taking substantially longer than we had intended (hoped?) We brought two liters of water each, and knew we were going to run out before the end. Luckily, we brought our water filter with us, and even more luckily, Stave Spring was flowing. Hooray!

Yay for available water sources, no matter how small!

After filling up, we had just over an hour left to run, and most of it was a gentle downhill. Just what we needed! We finished at the trailhead with 20 miles on our feet. What a great day!

When you think you got a tan, but it’s really just trail dirt, lol.

The East Rim Trail is a great introduction to Zion’s charms without the crazy number of tourists that you encounter in Zion Canyon. I’m so glad this was our first trail in the park!

While the trail was mostly well-marked, I utilized the Trail Run Project app for a GPS map of this trail, and it worked beautifully! It provides a map of the trail, an elevation chart, and a blue dot of your location (most helpful when you get off course by a wildlife trail camera, for example.) I kept my phone in airplane mode until I needed to reference the map, and it was easy to turn it on to see where we were on the trail. Below is an example of a screenshot when we were on our way back.

A screenshot while using the Trail Run Project app.

I know not to rely on technology while out on the trails, but I’ll admit a huge fan of apps like this. (I have no orienteering skills, so what good is a map if you don’t know where you are on it?) I’ve used the Green Trails app in Washington, but I’m glad to find the Trail Run Project is nationwide (and even international, I think). I’d REALLY recommend it!

Another action shot from the day!

Our route – East Rim Trail to Observation Point (bottom right to upper left):

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Day 1 of 2 of our adventures in Zion National Park was really fun and absolutely beautiful! Stay tuned for the Day 2 post when I go on a solo run before joining Adam for some fun hiking in the park…

 

Chuckanut 50K Race Report – 2017

This year’s Chuckanut 50K was quite the experience and a real contrast to last year’s race! This year heavily featured mud, rain, and a dash of hail. While that may sound pretty miserable, I still had a lot of fun! Unfortunately, due to the (rather incessant) rain, I wasn’t able to take many photos. The weather gods did not wish it, so you’ll have to use your imagination instead. 🙂

Before I get into the report itself, I just want to say how amazing all of the volunteers were! Volunteers are a huge part of any race, but I was even more impressed on this particular day because of the awful conditions. It’s one thing for the runners to be cold and wet, but at least we’re moving, and not having to huddle under a tent and focus on muddy, addle-brained runners coming through an aid station looking for food, drink, and encouragement. So, THANK YOU Chuckanut volunteers!! My sweaty, rain-soaked running hat is tipped to you and your awesomeness!

This year they changed things up a bit in the park, so we had to park elsewhere and take a shuttle to the start/finish. It was well-organized and easy to manage, and they allowed us to bring a drop bag for post-race change of clothes, etc. That was thoughtful and ended up being key since the weather was, um, rather damp.

The course was slightly different than last year, but still very distinct sections, so I’ll utilize the colors on the map to indicate which bit I’m talking about.

Chuckanut 50K Course 2017

From the Chuckanut website…

Interurban Trail (orange on the map):
The start was slightly different this year in that ran a bit around Fairhaven Park before getting onto the Interurban Trail. There was definitely a bottleneck, and a little jostling to avoid some huge puddles (no point in getting soaked less than 100 yards in.) After a mile or so, we spread out a bit and settled in to this straightforward part of the course. It’s mostly flat, and a nice warmup for the challenges ahead. Not much for scenery, especially in the foggy rain (Chuckanut Bay was hidden from view.) However, it’s mostly gravel, so I enjoyed the mostly mud-free miles.

Fragrance Lake Trail (pink):
After the aid station (which moved due to the course change), we began our first ascent. These switchbacks aren’t the most fun when it’s dry, but certainly less so in the rain and mud. My feet were sliding out from beneath me (sort of like a roller-blading motion, but without the 1999 nostalgic fun), but I knew this was just the beginning of the mud – so I had to get used to it! There were some nice views of all of the very green moss, ferns, and trees – pretty classic Pacific Northwest. We ran around Fragrance Lake (I honestly don’t know what the ‘fragrance’ is referring to, but I do wonder…) and then onto…

Two Dollar Trail (pink, part II):
I remember liking the Two Dollar Trail last year as it’s a nice place to pick up the pace because of the runnability of the trail. However, the first part was quite muddy, so it wasn’t as quick as I had hoped. Roots and rocks were hiding in the mud, and you didn’t know until your foot was already on it. It turned out to be an exercise in quick and light feet (not a bad skill to acquire in trail running!) The very end was a bit drier, and the shouts of encouragement from the aid station was very heartening!

Cleator Road and the Trudge of the Ultrarunners

Cleator Road (green):
Normally, I thoroughly dislike this part of the course. An unlovely 3 miles of annoyingly pitched road. Ugh. However, due to the weather, I was looking forward to it! Why, do you ask? Because I knew it’d be mud-free. 🙂 I’ve recently been doing some tough but awesome long hill repeats on an equally unlovely forest road (thanks, Jess!), so I was mentally prepared for it. I was determined to not let the pitch get to me, so I challenged myself to run as much as possible (it seemed like many folks walked most of it.) In the end, I don’t know if I did better than last year, but I was pleased with my progress nonetheless.

Ridge Trail (purple):
When I reached the top of Cleator, I smiled at the aid station’s 60’s peace & love theme, complete with a kissing booth. (I wonder how many runners partook?)

Hula hooping in the rain!

Peace and Love before the Ridge Trail

I had just blown through the other aid stations since I was fine with my own food and water, but I paused at this one for a refill, some oranges, and a moment to mentally brace for the Ridge Trail. Last year I had fallen twice on this part (luckily, no injuries), and with the very wet and muddy conditions, I was certain it would be treacherous. Well, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I had feared. Granted, I got passed the most in this section, but I know technical trails are my weakness (I just value my limbs and joints whole and undamaged, okay??)

However, by expecting the worst, it ended up not being so bad. There were some runnable bits near the end of the Ridge Trail, and it all went by much faster than I remembered. My only real tragedy was losing a precious handwarmer in the cleanup after a poorly executed ‘farmer blow.’

Pretty sure I took this exact photo last year, but it caught my eye again!

North Lost Lake Trail (purple, part II):
Even though it wasn’t as bad as I expected, I was grateful to get off the Ridge. I remember feeling pretty drained last year at this point, but this year I was just thankful that I had already gotten through some of these tough sections. That gave me some energy to get moving and try to tick off some miles before we found the real mudholes a little further down the trail. At this point, the rain had continued in earnest, so I didn’t get any great photos of some of the slop we ended up going through. What I did find interesting was all of the different colors of mud that we ran through: yellow, gray, and red-brown. As I’m not a soil expert, I couldn’t identify why it was so different in just a span of a mile, but it was sort of interesting anyway. OKAY, maybe not so interesting, but 16 miles into a 31 mile race, I’ll take just about any external distraction.

My shoes USED to be fuschia…

I also decided that the sound my shoes made while running through the very wet mud was slorp slorp slorp slorp. I mentioned this to another runner, and her response was, “ohhh, now I want a milkshake. But not a chocolate one.” Ha!

Chinscraper (blue):
There was a full aid station at the bottom of Chinscraper, and I paused for a snack and a mental break. At this point, I was tired and sore (duh), but my bigger problem was how cold I was becoming. I was completely soaked through – honestly, I would be drier stepping out of the shower – and the wind was starting to pick up. I was a bit worried since my hands were already numb and not working, but there wasn’t anything to be done except get moving. Chinscraper wasn’t going to climb itself, so off I went.

I remember last year being focused on distracting Adam with lots of chatter because he was struggling a bit mentally. Without the need to create a diversion for someone else, I became more aware of this vertical beast, and it ended up being longer (but not steeper) than I remembered, ha! Turns out the amazing photographer Glenn Tachiyama isn’t at the top like I thought, but only halfway up. Oops. Also, remember how I said I was soaked through and the wind was picking up? To add to it, it starting HAILING. I employed some colorful language at this point, and then just started to find it funny. At least with hail I wasn’t getting any wetter? Type two fun all the way.

Fragrance Lake Road (blue, part II):
Once I reached the top of Chinscraper, I was happy that all the vertical was behind me! It was all downhill or flat from here on out. Last year we had headed back down the Fragrance Lake Trail, but this year the course went down the Fragrance Lake Road instead. Turns out, it’s much nicer to run on! A gradual descent on a gravel road. Just what the legs needed – some non-technical, easy miles.

Random waterfall sighting!

I was starting to feel a bit tired (huh, wonder why?), so I decided it was time to blast some music to keep my energy up. I had brought headphones, but with the rain that was a no-go. Fellow runners, I hope you didn’t mind my music choices!

Interurban Trail (red):
Once I hit the final aid station and knew that I only had 6 miles to go, I was hopeful I could beat last year’s time by a little bit. This became my sole focus. Legs were tired and sore, of course, but luckily, it hurt less to run than to walk. This section, being mostly straight and flat, is nice in the beginning of the race, but is a soul-sucker at the end. It seems never-ending…but it’s not. This too shall pass.

Also, this is when the rain stopped, and we started to see patches of blue sky. Ah, well, better late than never, I suppose??

Some clear skies on the way… how nice.

I passed a fair number of people in this last section, and was happy I still had some energy left. Some kind strangers told me when I had less than a few minutes to the finish, so I was able to even give a bit of a kick at the end (I’m sure it still looked like a jog, but whatever.) Yay – DONE!

Some quick numbers:

Finishing time: 7:26:09

Elevation gain: ~5,500 feet

Calories consumed: ~800 (6 Glutino Oreos, 2 pouches sweet potato/apple baby food, 2 homemade almond cookies, bite of potato, 1 orange)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to food to eat and some shoes to wash… 🙂

Seattle Whisky Jewbilee 2017

I’ve been mostly focusing on my training so far this year, so I haven’t done much whisky exploration lately. It was about time for some drams! On March 2, some friends, my husband, and I attended the second annual Seattle Whisky Jewbilee. It’s an event for whisky lovers that included a kosher buffet, a tasting glass, and a selection of roughly 250 whiskies to enjoy. It was the perfect activity for a particularly dreary Seattle night!

Being the nerd that I am, I looked over the pour list ahead of time, and compared it with my whisky tasting log. I noted the whiskies I hadn’t sampled before and then any that caught my interest. (Yes, I did research before an event with copious amounts of liquor. You can’t be any cooler than me, really, lol.) As an enthusiast and not a drunkard, I wanted to be strategic about the whiskies I sampled. I’m glad I did this as it would have been easy to be overwhelmed by the many offerings.

When heading into the venue, WithinSodo, our IDs and tickets were checked, and we were given a wristband and our wee tasting glass. The venue itself had an interesting minimalist/industrial/rustic look. There were three rooms with tables of distillery representatives, and another room for the buffet. The food offerings were very tasty! Various meats on sticks, sushi rolls, small pasties and savory pies, and a table with sweets: cookies, hamantaschen, lemon bars, and strawberries. All of the food was very good and I was pleased that none of it had an overpowering flavor – perfect for whisky tasting! The only thing I found slightly odd was that after about an hour, the food was completely taken away. So if you went straight for the whisky or got hungry later, you were out of luck.

It was quite a crush of people in the beginning and near impossible to get to the tables to get a sample (or even see which distilleries were represented.) I really wished for a small “program” with perhaps a map of where distilleries were in the space – it would have been really helpful. (Particularly when our friends were specifically looking for one distillery that was supposed to be there but it turned out they weren’t.) Anyway, a bit later, it calmed down somewhat and became a easier to move around and chat with the distillery reps.

I had intended on taking more photographs, but I was a bit more focused on enjoying the whisky than visually documenting the experience. Oops. 😉

Sláinte!

So, without further ado, here are the drams I tasted!

Glenfarclas 21 Year Old

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 43%ABV

Nose: Fruit and sweet bread

Palate: Tastes exactly like it smells – fruity, sweet, with baking spices. Easy to drink and nicely rounded.

Notes: Our friends adore this distillery, and I can see why! They are a family-owned distillery, and have classic Speyside offerings. (Still kicking myself that we didn’t go there last May.) You always know their drams will be well-balanced and fruity.

Brenne 10 Year Old

Single Malt (French) 48%ABV

Nose: Fruity, and VERY sweet. Like cotton candy or bubblegum.

Palate: Doesn’t taste like it smells. Kind of sweet, burnt sugar, with an odd grapefruit note. Not as candy-like as the original Brenne.

Notes: I’ve had the ‘original’ Brenne before, and it blew my mind with how much it smelled and tasted like bubblegum. (Which, honestly, is a weird flavor to get from whisky.) This particular expression is matured in ex-cognac casks as well as new French oak, which definitely gives it a unique flavor.

Cutty Sark Prohibition

Blended Scotch 50%ABV

Nose: CARAMEL

Palate: Very velvety for the ABV. Creamy, and not fruity at all. Lots of caramel.

Notes: This was at the Highland Park table, and I had been hoping to try a different whisky. I can’t say I was disappointed, though, it was a delightful dram! Very easy on the palate, particularly given the ABV.

Mortlach 1995 – 17 Year Old (Exclusive Malts)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 53.3%ABV

Nose: Oaky, and caramel

Palate: Exactly like it smells – more oak and hints of caramel

Notes: This was the only one I didn’t finish. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine, but… meh. I wanted to ‘save room’ for ones that I truly enjoyed!

Hibiki Japanese Harmony Masters Select

Blended (Japan) 43%ABV

Nose: Dark fruit, brown sugar

Palate: Balanced. Sweet, fruity, bit of brine on the finish

Notes: The whiskies are drawn from 5 different types of casks, including American white oak casks, Sherry casks and Mizunara oak casks. Like other blended whiskies, this one was easy to drink.

Laphroaig LORE

Single Malt Scotch (Islay) 48%ABV

Nose: Sweet SMOKE

Palate: PEAT, but more brine than a typical Laphroaig. It lacked the classic Laphroaig medicinal notes (which is a-okay by me.) Sweeter than their standard drams.

Notes: Adam really liked this one, and I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t. I had a pretty strong reaction to the nose, but it was early on in the evening and I hadn’t sampled any other smoke bombs. However, it wasn’t like licking a burnt band-aid, which is how they normally taste to me. 🙂

Glenmorangie Bacalta

Single Malt Scotch (Highland) 46%ABV

Nose: Very sweet honeyed fruits, but not in a cloying way.

Palate: Sweet, smooth, with some drying oak and hints of spice. Like drinking sunshine.

Notes: Matured for 2.5-3 years in a Madeira cask. This was my favorite of the night! I’m always a fan of Glenmorangie’s offerings (the Nectar d’Or specifically), but this one was pure ambrosia. I’d love to get a bottle of this on my shelf!

The Macallan 32 Year Old (privately-owned cask)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) Unknown %ABV

Nose: Balanced juicy fruits, grains and nuttiness.

Palate: Perfectly sweet, with hints of brine. A very well-balanced dram!

Notes: There was a gentleman who had a bottle ‘under the table’ that supposedly was from a friend of his who owned a cask and gave him a bottle of it. It was in a very old Laphroaig bottle, but we were told it was a Macallan 32 year old. I only have his word to go on, but a fun offering nonetheless!

Glen Moray 12 Year Old Madeira Cask (Single Cask Nation)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 54.7%ABV

Nose: Fruity sweetness with buttery undertones.

Palate: Tastes like it smells – fruity and buttery, with the addition of some spices.

Notes: It spent 6 years maturing in a first fill bourbon barrel before maturing for an additional 6 years in ex-madeira cask. Another fine example of what a madeira cask can accomplish! Very easy to drink, especially considering the ABV.

Ben Nevis 20 Year Old (Single Cask Nation)

Single Malt Scotch (Highland) 55.6%ABV

Nose: Caramel with fruit, hint of nuttiness with brown sugar

Palate: Rich and sweet with dark fruits, nuts, and brown sugar

Notes: A great whisky to finish out the evening.

 

The whiskies offered ranged from single malts to blends to bourbons, but I leaned heavily towards single malts as they’re my preferred whisky (if you hadn’t gathered that already!) This event gave us the opportunity to try quite a few whiskies that would be difficult to sample otherwise, and that alone made it worth it. Overall, it was a very fun event that we enjoyed with our friends, and I would happily go again next year!

Fort Ebey Kettles Trail Marathon Race Report

While I’ve been to Whidbey Island before to hike, this was my first time running up there and it was great. It was a well organized race with a very well-marked trail (always important in the maze of state park trails). It had a low-key, minimalist vibe that is one of the many reasons I love trail races!

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Course map from Northwest Trail Runs website

While I ran the marathon, Adam ran the half. We both had a good day and it was fun to compare notes post-race (in between the grunts and groans of discomfort that comes with moving about after a marathon, lol.) The marathon course was just two loops of the half marathon course. Normally loops are not my favorite, but it was nice to know what I was getting into for the second loop, and I could run a bit more strategically that way. I remember this bit is flat for awhile – push it now and save the cookie break for that upcoming hill. 😉

 

Spotted in the beginning of my second loop – a couple enjoying the beautiful view!

 

The website says the total elevation gain is 5500 feet, which is quite a bit for a race of this distance. It was advertised as lots of little rollers versus any really big climbs. I can tell you now that a lot of those rollers are in the first 4 miles. I’d say that overall, while the scenery was charming, those miles were my least favorite. Lots of tiny twists and turns, while going up and down. It forced me to focus intensely on the trail so I wouldn’t totally faceplant (and hey, I didn’t, success!)

Some sunshine on the moss – looked idyllic!

While I didn’t particularly enjoy that section, the entire course had very smooth trails which just some roots now and then and hardly any rocks. I enjoyed the lack of technicality on this race (even though it’s something I know I need to work on for future races *cough* Chuckanut *cough*.)

So much green in here!

During the first loop, I was basically alone after the first aid station at mile 4. There were less than 50 marathoners, so this didn’t surprise me as I often run a pace that doesn’t seem to match anyone else’s pace. At about mile 6 or 7, I was in a very enclosed part of the trail – surrounded by green underbrush and small trees. It was dead quiet, and I was deep in thought (maybe about burgers?) when I heard a shout behind me, “Runner up!” I nearly jumped out of my shoes. The half marathoners (who started the race 40 minutes after the marathoners) had caught up with me. As thin guys in singlets and short shorts whizzed by me, I had to remind myself that I had three quarters of the race to go, while they were already halfway done. It shouldn’t have been discouraging at all, but I mean, who likes to be passed?

Much to my relief, there were a lot more runnable sections after that first aid station. I made a mental note of that so I could push more on the second loop. Something else I will say for this state park – it has some pretty entertaining trail names. I didn’t catch them all, but I had to grab a picture of this signpost.

Humpty-Dump and Whipper-Snapper Trails

At about mile 10.5, we suddenly popped out of the trees onto the bluff. Now THIS was what we run for – these great views! I was not the only one that stopped to take a photo.

 

A remarkable view at the top of the bluff!

After running along the bluffs for awhile, we ran a loop tortuously close to the start/finish and headed back into the woods. During this part I ran and chatted with a woman named Kalee who was fun and cheerful. Not too long after, we came back to the start/finish. The crowds were cheering and the chute beckoned! Alas, the celebration was for the half marathoners. Kalee dropped here due to a nasty cold, but encouraged me, “Go get it!”I followed some signage, and turned away to continue on to my second loop.

By this point, the sun was out, and I was cheered by being halfway done. The second loop felt faster (it wasn’t), but I was happy to still be moving pretty well. My coach had given me the goal of trying to pace the two loops evenly, so I had to push hard on this second loop to try and make that happen. I’m glad I had that focus, though, otherwise I definitely would have dawdled and possibly gotten bummed out by how far I still had to go. Such good mental practice for longer races!

Not to say that my legs didn’t hurt. They did! As it’s been about 10 months since I ran this kind of distance, I needed to get used to that feeling of running on sore legs again as it’ll be happening more times this year! 🙂 During the first loop, my right hip flexor was irritated and sore, but on the second loop, everything was sore so I didn’t notice if it still hurt! A silver lining, lol.

After the mile 17 aid station, I treated myself to blasting some music to give myself a lift. It was pretty perfect when my favorite Brandi Carlile song “Raise Hell” came on to bring me across the finish line! Despite running alone for the majority of the race, I was happy to learn that I wasn’t DFL, but 26 of the 41 marathon finishers. Nice to know there were plenty of other crazies out there too. 🙂

Some quick numbers:

Finishing time: 5:59:18

Elevation gain: ~5,500 feet

Calories consumed: ~600 (5 Glutino Oreos, half an orange, 2 pouches sweet potato/apple baby food, handful of pretzel M&Ms)

🙂

 

My Better Half Virtual Run 2017

Last year we ran the My Better Half Marathon Virtual run and it was really fun! I’m a bit of a sucker for self-run races and being able to sleep in on ‘race day’ to run it whenever it works best for you. We decided to do the virtual run again this year! Also, Orca Running races always have great swag, and who doesn’t love that? 🙂

 

Obligatory pre-race photo

When we run together, we have a tendency to stay on the same sides always (like choosing a side of the bed to sleep on.) Adam had personalized his bib so it said “My Better Half is —>” Awww! So cute. So I wanted to do that too. I MAY have accidentally pointed the arrows the wrong way, lol, but nothing that a little creativity couldn’t fix. 🙂

Our route was the same as last year – on the Burke Gilman Trail. Nothing remarkable about it except that it’s flat and we know it really well. It was a great day for a run – warmer than it’s been lately, and dry. It was a reminder that winter won’t last forever!

In the neighborhood I saw signs of spring!
We ended a bit differently this year, though, by going to Gas Works Park. The sky was beautifully moody, so we had to grab a finishing photo there.

Our finishing time was a very comfortable 2:16! Just a minute slower than year, and we were deliberately taking our time.

We tried to take some cute post-run photos, but then we ended up looking creepy (our selfie game is not on point.) We finally got this one with the light-up medals.

Bonus: Kaylee loves red laser pointers, and she was enjoying staring at the medal as it flashed. Pretty cute. 🙂

Another fun race in the books!

Capitol Peak Mega Fatass 26K Race(ish) Report

Training has been going well, and I’m getting challenged in new ways, which is awesome! I’m very excited to see where training will take me this year. Part of my training today was to run a local fatass race – the Capitol Peak Mega Fatass.

The start/finish

Besides the fantastic name, fatass races are great because they’re sort of like an enhanced group run rather a regular race. Very basic amenities maybe (this one had portapotties, water, coursemarking, and great volunteers), but no high fee, t-shirts, swag, food, or whining. (Sooo… a bunch of crazy yet harmless people running in the woods for basically no payoff except the joy of running long distances for fun.) This was my first time doing one and it was a great experience.

The course from the Olytrailrunners website.

The weather at the start was typical winter PNW – brisk 38 degrees and damp. Perfect running weather, and the course was super runnable! Some forest road, some little-used singletrack, and most of it was well-used and worn trails. Basically no technical stuff except for a little sticky yet slippery mud and some muddy ice at a high point. It’s seems rare to find a trail race with decent mileage that is so runnable. (And since I tend to run technical trails like a cautious grandmother, these trails were great.)

Can’t resist a curvy trail!

Not too many views today, but the runnable trail made up for it!

PNW magic

One thing I found interesting is that this was the first solo race for me in quite a while. Adam has done all of the others with me in the past 14 months, and I got used to his calm presence and humorous quips being there during a race. (He really is a nice fella to have around, and that day he was off running a half marathon with a buddy.) I’ve done many races solo before he started racing with me, so it’s not a big deal, but I didn’t expect to feel a pang of loneliness without him there. (Sorry for the marital emotion – whew.) However, when we both got home from our respective races, it was fun to share our different race day experiences.

One thing I kept thinking about during the race, though, was alllll of the amazing women marching  around the world for equality! I “marched” in my own way today with this race with this great pin a friend made and gave to me. ❤ This is not the end, but just the beginning of our activism.

Women’s rights are human rights. That is all.

As always, to finish up, here are some quick numbers from today:

Finishing time: 3:18:01

Elevation gain: ~1,700 feet

Calories consumed: ~500 (5 Glutino Oreos, 1/4 roasted sweet potato, pouch of apple/sweet potato/carrot baby food (it worked great, no judging!)

How do you know if it was a good day on the trails? The more dirt, the better. 🙂

2016 in Review – 2017 in Preview

It has been quite a year! To give some perspective, here are my numbers for 2016:

-1,100 miles run
-One 50 miler completed (Highland Fling race report)
-One 50K completed (Chuckanut race report)
-One 25K completed (Deception Pass race report)
-One half marathon completed (My Better Half race report)
and…
-74 whiskies tasted (Online log here)

This year has been a mix of things for me, running-wise, although it may not seem that way at first glance. It wasn’t quite the year I’d planned, BUT there were some really fantastic highlights. Quantity of everything was a bit lower than 2015, but the quality was excellent!

img_0516

Looking back at a beautiful view this year.

It started off very well in the spring – my training with Alison Naney of Cascade Endurance was really great with our focus on the Highland Fling at the end of April. Adam and I ran that together and it was hard, fun, and incredible all at once. Racing internationally was a whole new challenge (now with more logistics and new foods!), but a welcome one. Amazing views were seen (top of Conic Hill) and lessons learned (bring Dramamine for post-race bus trip!) Traveling around Scotland after that was also an amazing experience and probably my absolute favorite vacation to date! I learned so much from all of the distillery tours that we went on, and it just increased my fascination with whisky and the whisky-making process.

After returning home, I started running again and quickly developed some intense and mysterious pain in my right leg, stemming from my hip. This put a huge damper on my summer, and it took many many months to rehab to where I could run/hike again – five months. I’m so lucky and grateful it wasn’t more serious, but I’ve never dealt with such a long-term injury like that before, and it was a very humbling experience. I like to think that I learned from it in a number of ways. Mostly patience with myself and gratitude for my body being (generally) willing and able to do what I ask of it. (I also learned that I’m as cheerful as a sleep-deprived cat if I can’t run, and very unhappy when I lose hold of my identity as a runner.)

Even with some lingering niggles, at the end of the year I was able to get running again and even run a 25K. That was very heartening, and was a good way to lead up to “real” training again, starting now in January!

Looking forward into 2017, I’m aiming for bigger challenges this year. I wouldn’t say I’ve “mastered” the 50 miler by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve always wanted to try longer races (100K & 100 miler) and let’s be honest, I’m not getting any younger. (Right?) What better time than now? So bring it on! What races exactly will I be doing? I’ll keep you in suspense…(they’re not open for registration yet, so I’ll let you know when I’m actually signed up – I don’t want to jinx it!)

2017 will be about new mental challenges with these longer distances, and I’m really excited about the journey. There will be growth opportunities galore! I mean, if you don’t have some personal epiphanies after 60+ miles in the mountains or in the middle of the night during a 100, I think you’re doing it wrong or not paying attention. OR…you’re very well balanced. Good for you. Anyway, I’m really excited (and nervous… but mostly excited) about the physical and mental challenges of these longer distances.

I’ll also be working with a new coach, Jess Mullen of FitFirst! She’s a very accomplished ultramarathoner, and I’m psyched (and slightly in awe) to be working with her. She specializes in 100s, which suits my goals nicely, and I can’t wait to learn from her. My first day of training with her was a day at the track. As a slow ultrarunner, going fast seems as foreign as a giraffe on the moon, but it was refreshing and hard. Yay!

A beautiful (but brisk) day to start training!

So… let 2017 begin!

Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar: Days 19-24

The final installment of our Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar of 2016! We concluded this adventure with our whisky friends, Ali and Alison. We had SO much fun, and we think there should be more “Advent” Calendars for different times during the year. Maybe one for spring equinox, summer solstice, fall equinox – what say you, Drinks by the Dram? 😉 (Luckily, I already ordered another small tasting set to continue the whisky tasting fun in 2017.)

If you missed our tasting notes from the earlier days, here they are: Days 1-5, 6-8, 9-13, and 14-18. In this last set, there were some memorable ones (good and…well, different), notes below!

Very festive conclusion to our Advent Calendar!

 

Day 19: Aultmore 9 Yr Old 2006 (cask 7120) The Cooper’s Choice (The Vintage Malt Whisky Co.)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 46%ABV

Nose: Bright, sweet grass, buttery, vanilla

Palate: Well balanced. Grassy, but sweet. Light fruits. Bit of pepper and sweet fruits at the end.

Notes: Aged in a bourbon cask.

Day 20: English Whisky Co. Heavily Peated 5 Year Old 2010

Single Malt English (England) 67.4%ABV

Nose: Very smoky with an edge of caramel. Hints of some mild fruits.

Palate: It should need water at this ABV, but it’s drinkable as is! The first flavor is fruit that is quickly overtaken by smoke. Lingering pepper and cinnamon. Long finish!

Notes: OKAY, I’ll admit I was worried about this one. I’ve had only one other dram from the English Whisky Co and I thought it was dreadful. Like licking a piece of burned firewood at camp, but with no other flavors (or bits of fallen s’mores on it, unfortunately.) That said, this one surprised me. It’s not my favorite, but it had more hints of fruity and caramel sweetness than I expected and it was very drinkable considering the high ABV. Will I seek it out to drink again? No. Would I turn it down if someone offered some to me? No, I’d give it another shot!

Day 21: Strathclyde 24 Yr Old 1990 (cask 2777) – Rare Auld Grain

Single Grain (Lowland) 55.7%ABV

Nose: Smells like you’ve stuck your head in a freshly made wooden chest. After some more air exposure it has some brown sugar present as well.

Palate: Not rich or full bodied. Sharp, with rubber. Our collaborative narrative: new shoes in a freshly laminated cabinet… with a green banana sitting next to it. Not a favorite overall.

Notes: The very few single grain whiskies I’ve had I really enjoyed. This one did not fall into the category. It was memorably odd.

Day 22: Glentauchers 18 Yr Old 1996 (cask 10779)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 48.4%ABV

Nose: Citrus and… root beer? Very light, honey, brown sugar on the back of it. 

Palate: Citrus, vanilla, and very well balanced. 

Notes: Matured in a refill barrel. Honestly, it was a nice balm to the previous two less-than-fantastic drams. “An apology” said Alison. Very enjoyable!

Day 23: Auchentoshan 12 Yr Old 2003 Distiller’s Art (Langside)

Single Malt Scotch (Lowland) 48%ABV

Nose: Honey, slightly ripened bananas

Palate: Triple distilled! Very light and smooth very pleasant, easy drinker. Hard to distinguish nuanced flavors in this one because it’s so light. Hints of light fruits and a little oak, but very smooth.

Notes: Tastes like warm sunshine (versus the cold Midwestern sunshine of a January day. It’s a thing. Don’t judge.)

Day 24: Macallan 1989 (bottled 2015) (cask 15067) – Malts of Scotland

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 47.8%ABV

Nose: Smells like a classic Speyside, only richer and bit more complex. Dark fruits, little bit of orange peel, honey.

Palate: Very rich with baking spices. Fruity and smooth. Rounded edges on this one.

Notes: Matured in a refill sherry hogshead. For comparison, we then tried a bottle of Macallan Select Oak that our friends had on their shelf. You could easily pick out the Macallan character, only the Select Oak had more edges to it. This 1989 expression was just richer and had more depth in the flavor. Very good!

Some local treats to finish off our night. Yay Westland and Theo!


This year’s advent calendar was very fun and tasty! It’s not often you get the opportunity to sample such unique drams as the ones we tried. Additionally, tasting with some equally enthusiastic friends made the experience even more entertaining. 

I was surprised at how few smoky whiskies there were, and how many Speyside distilleries were represented. However, I think Islay generally focuses more on their peaty flavors while Speyside focus on enhancing flavor with their casks (with exceptions in both cases, of course!)

It was a great exploration of 24 different drams, and a great way to countdown to Christmas! I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. Happy Merry Everything!

Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar: Days 14-18

It seems like the days of December are flying by! Time for another tasting of our Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar from Drinks by the Dram. (Here are the tasting notes for days 1-5, 6-8, and 9-13.) We had some very different drams this time around from bright and fresh (Glen Grant) to smoky and salty (Caol Ila.)

Day 14: Glen Grant 12 Yr Old 2004 (Bartles Whisky)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 56.6% ABV

Nose: Pear and apple (almost unripe), tangy, honey

Palate: Needs water. Very bright and fresh without being citrusy or very sweet. Reminds me of a bright white wine.

Notes: Matured in a bourbon hogshead.

Day 15: Caol Ila 35 Yr Old 1979 (Cask 10594) Xtra Old Particular (Douglas Laing)

Single Malt Scotch (Islay) 47.1% ABV

Nose: Smoke! Sea air with a dark sweetness following. Brown sugar and molasses?

Palate: Smoke and salt. Warm ginger and an herbal note. Smoke lingers on the finish. Well balanced.

Notes: Matured in a single refill hogshead cask. Adam liked it more than I did, and I can’t put my finger on why exactly. I’m pretty particular about the smoke bombs that I do like, and I just haven’t found the right Caol Ila yet.

Day 16: Glenfarclas 2009 (Bottled 2016) (cask 1805)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 59.9% ABV

Nose: Sweet and dark fruits. Creamy and rich.

Palate: Pretty drinkable for the ABV, but water helps open it up a bit. Starts out spicy, with an oaky flavor midway through. Finish is very subtle.

Notes: The flavor reminded me of a bottle rocket – a flavor burst that then fades (but leaves you with a smile on your face.)

Day 17: Craigllachie 12 Yr Old 2004 – A Rare Find (Gleann Mór)

Single Malt Scotch (Speyside) 57.2% ABV

Nose: Sweet, buttery, fresh with caramel on the back.

Palate: Spicy with fruits. Bit of water opens it to have some more grains and hint of oak. Spice lingers and is very warming.

Notes: A fairly straightforward spicy (yet light) malt.

Day 18: Ben Nevis 18 Yr Old 1997 (Scotland Grindlay)

Single Malt Scotch (Highland) 52.6% ABV

Nose: Green foliage followed by fruit and nutty notes. Some grapefruit too.

Palate: Pineapple and grapefruit. The tiniest hint of smoke on the finish.

Notes: I couldn’t get over the amount of grapefruit in this one! Very distinctive (to me, anyway.)

An additional whisky critic lent a helping paw to the tasting. 😉

I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas! I’m sad our advent calendar will soon come to an end, but I’m quite excited about the day 24 dram because last year’s was fantastic!